You have to love the rebound Starbucks has been able to achieve over the past couple of years. Even more impressive in the midst of the economic environment that plagues us still. The return of Howard Schultz as CEO has led to the announcement that Starbucks will pay out it’s first-ever dividend.
Troy Alstead, Chief Financial Officer for Starbucks, was quoted in the New York Times Dealbook blog as saying: “From what we can see, and also the research we do, I think the consumer sporadically feels a bit better about themselves than a year ago,” Mr. Alstead said. However, he added, Starbucks is expecting continued high unemployment and “a slow, slow recovery.”
What people and employees alike lost during the years of aggressive expansion of locations by Starbucks was the watering down of the experience they came to love. Let’s face it, if you are willing to pay 2 to 4 bucks for java – it better be good and it better mean the “place” is something you want to frequent. What Starbucks gets is that their “buyer personas” want more than coffee and they want the social experience that comes with it. Starbucks will contribute 5 cents for every cup of Starbucks Red Africa sold to a Global Fund to help people living with HIV. For education, they are partnering with MSNBC show Morning Cup of Joe and donating the same to an Education Fund. These efforts provide people with the experience of social responsibility while offering a good cup of coffee.
What I love that’s happening here is that Starbucks is finding their inner self again and getting back in touch with customers in a way they came to endear. I suspect there are many B2B companies trying to find their inner selves again. One way to find it is to get back in touch with your buyer personas. Not at just the cursory level but also spending the time – and yes money! – to understand your customers in a way that it bleeds into the DNA of the organization.